Tag: Hilton Head Island

Foundations in Youth Ministry: Making Mission Part of Your Mission

Panama Mission - Making Concrete

Foundations in Youth Ministry:

Making Mission Part of Your Mission

By Daniel Griswold

(This is the first copy of the article published in The Advocate, UMC Publication in the South Carolina Conference)

When first starting a ministry to youth, mission may not seem like a huge priority.  There is a budget (or lack of) to wrestle with, relationships to build, schools to visit, parents to meet, programs to run, volunteers to lead, and a new pastor to get to know.  That’s a small fraction of the to-do list, and wrangling a team together and convincing them to pay good money, or fundraise to travel and be inconvenienced by the unpredictability of travel seems like a hard sell.  It would be far easier to do some quick local service projects, we all can feel helpful, and we sleep well at night knowing our kids can work hard.

There is a small problem though.  I’ve yet to see local service projects have the same personally transforming experience that a week and a half serving others in a foreign situation can.  Why is that?  I think that there are a few factors that come into play that bring about a huge transformation in young people.

First, being inconvenienced and having to convince oneself that serving others is worthy my time, money and effort creates a self-sacrificing atmosphere.  Youth can often be idealists, so speaking about the good that can be done and showing the people that we can serve with builds not only compassion, but camaraderie with peoples around the globe.  Once the team is on the ground, they can already be an oiled team who has met the challenges of fundraising, getting passports, doing paperwork, and learning the local culture and possibly language.  Once on the ground, it is assumed that the projects will be hard, that everyone will have to step beyond comfort, and because of this, everyone is stretched.  It is in these situations of stress that we can learn who we all really are.

Second, young people need to see that God is alive and is working through the hearts and hands of people all across the globe.  Sometimes we accidentally fall into the mentality that we, the privileged, can go and serve among the unfortunates who need our help.  This is dangerous thinking because it sets us in a caste above those we serve.  I’ve always been able to experience excellent teams who realize that we are going to serve with and among good hard working people, and partner with Christians and missionaries already on the ground.  We become part of a continuum.  We bear our own weight and don’t expect more because of our lifestyles back home, and we worship in the styles and culture of Methodists here and there.  In this we begin to see a glimpse of the future multi-national, all-cultural unity of the Kingdom of God.  Those who see it tend to get over some of the petty cultural battles that disengage the church from its true mission to spread the Gospel through action and love.

Throughout scripture, in the Old and New Testaments, God calls out to His people and says “Go”. “Go where?” I don’t know where God will lead you and your young people, but it is clear that it is in the midst of going out that we begin to fully understand what it must have been like for Moses to leave Midian to save his people, or for the apostles including Paul, who went out and became missionaries to all people who would listen and come alongside them.  Our youth groups need someone with leadership and vision enough to take on the challenge and say, “We need to listen to God and go out.”

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission constantly run great trips.  Salkehatchie, with 48 camps across the state, has been amazing for our youth group as well, and allows for in-state but still out of comfort trips uniting many churches with one mission.  Talk with your church’s mission committee or to those who are passionate about mission opportunities and to ask them, “How can we get young people serving alongside you?”  It may take some time to build the chain of trust with working adults and retirees, but the resulting intergenerational opportunity will break open misconceptions of all sorts and show the world that our God is not someone who segregates us by culture, race, age, geography or whatever separates us.  We are all children of the same God, and we are all in need of the saving Love of Jesus Christ.  Your youth group may or may not grow in numbers, but you’ll likely produce a few world changers.  Pray about it and meditate a bit on the Great Commission at the end of Matthew.  Jesus said, Go.  Let’s get going.


Youth Director at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC

Hilton Head Island, SC   Twitter:  @Dannonhill     EmailDanielGriswold@Gmail.com 

Pastor’s Corner: Was God Born? The Concept of Eternity and a Great Mysterious God

Grasping God’s greatness is an adventure of the mind

Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A recent letter by a child to God asked, “God, how were you born?”That same question came up last night with a group of middle school students. I remember grappling with this thought myself; the notion of an ultimate creator being created is a natural one.We are all born into this world. None of us has ever not been born — unless you are an extremely unique creature. So far everyone I have met has had a birth date, and there have been witnesses, so no one has been able to claim otherwise in spite of the fact that we don’t remember our own moments of personal genesis.

The notion that God has no beginning and also no end is a mind twister. I remember having the concept of eternity explained to me in my early years this way: A dove holds a feather in her beak and is able to fly from one end of the known universe to the other end. In the middle of the universe, there is an iron ball the size of Jupiter. The dove grazes the iron ball with the feather each time it passes. On the day that the iron ball is completely worn down to nothing by the dove’s feather, that is the day that eternity has just begun.

That last part usually takes a moment to sink in. Understanding that God has no beginning or end, and is the Alpha and Omega of all things in our own universe, is hard to grasp. It takes a bit of appreciation of mystery, and yet the concept draws us in. Those who do good wish to have an eternity, in order to do the most to better mankind and the universe. The evil genius wants an eternity to destroy what the good people build.

The stories of the ancient gods, who were very human in their frailties, seem to be about their longing to go on epic adventures without the worry of one day dying. In wisdom literature, the book of Ecclesiastes says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, in a reply to the letter of the child I mentioned previously, tried to respond for God in his own words and simply said, “But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!” The response is quite charming and full of grace and love to a 6-year-old named Lulu.

Grasping the greatness, or “big-ness” of God is a great undertaking. This is an adventure of the mind and a journey of faith. The box we build to put God into continues to break, even as we learn what God has put in the box for us to see. That is why I love the Scriptures. That is why I love the continued action of faith in the lives of people who express the eternity of God by doing great and wondrous things.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

More Wisdom, Less Pain: Atheism and Belief Considering Each Other

More Wisdom, Less Pain

By Daniel Griswold

This is the original.  A version is published in The Island Packet’s Bluffton Edition

In my usual perusal of Internet blogs, I stumbled onto an article titled “Religion is Going Nowhere”.  I like to peruse opinion, so I clicked and began to read a particular atheist’s thoughts on theism and the irrationality of religion.  It was a user-generated section of a news site, so it wasn’t a reporter, just another guy or gal like me who had some thoughts to share.  I bit, and read on because the messiness of opinion and reality intrigues me.

There wasn’t a central idea, but several assertions were made.  (1) Religion would be around much longer than most atheists think.  (2) Real atheism is hard to accept, because it assumes a mechanical universe, which is probed for truth by science.  (3) Many theists cling to their “Bronze Age Soap Opera’s” and refuse to face reality.  (4) Atheists must fight theists who seek world domination.

It is a hard thing to look at a critique of our identity and not become angry, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise.  The most poignant point here is that the believer is seen as an Enemy rather than a Friend.  That should send us into a deep moment of asking “Why?”  From a Christian perspective, how can the faith that had an early historian exclaim, “Behold, how they love each other,” and whose sacred texts admonish us to “Love God and Love others” be seen as the great enemy?

The first issue is a relational one.  Love in our culture has become so twisted, that I think even Christians have forgotten what it means to reach out and care without any pre-conditions.  Love means risk.  We can realize that reaching out beyond our comfort zone, to those who do not see the world as we do, there will be struggle.  And to do it not to convince the other of anything, but simply to be a friend – that is even harder.  Our current context, being a follower of Jesus, when so many people have been abused by people who certainly were good pretenders, and who committed injustices against the defenseless and the young – that also takes guts to say, “Jesus is love” while taking a scalpel to the evils in the institution and cutting away the rot that created an atmosphere of abuse.  Evil is evil, whether you believe in God or not, and across the board, this is a common ground for the future.

A second issue is philosophical and theological in nature, and seems to provide a large divide.  There seems to be an assumption that all religious people are irrational.  Certainly, there are irrational people in all groups and certainly across all religions there are those seeking a world of rational faith. The argument that religious people cannot be rational seems to be based on this logic. (x) Theists trust scriptures, (y) scriptures are myths, thus (z) theists are morons. The basis of this idiocy seems to be that there are many religions, all with sacred texts, all claiming absolute truth.  The fallacy: Because there are many, is that all the sacred texts must be wrong, and this leads to (z) theists are deceived or ignorant. My issue is this: Having varying texts all purporting to be from God does not immediately preclude that all of them are wrong. One, or even two, if looking simply with logic, have the potential to be actual sources of truth – if there is a God. A decision still has to be made.  It seems to me that a rational person would be the one who studies all the texts, and considers all the data they know from the sciences, all they know of humanity, all they know of the cosmos, and makes a call. There needs to be discernment either way.

I’m not writing to be argumentative, but to bring all people to think more with their minds and their hearts.  Many things said on all sides are meant to hurt others rather than to heal – and that is wrong no matter where you’re coming from.  The book of proverbs opens with this:

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the walls she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?  How long will mockers delight in mockery an fools hate knowledge?  Repent at my rebuke!  Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.” 

This is a good message for all the people of the world.  Seek wisdom, find the way.

Daniel Griswold is the Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC.  His email is danielgriswold@gmail.com and his twitter name is @dannonhill.

(Image Source)

Our Sacred Space AKA Youth Gathering Room (oh the difference a year makes)

A little over a year ago, the Children’s Ministry at Saint Andrew allowed us (Surf Youth Group), to take over a large room in our administration building in order have more space for Youth Activities.  Here is what it looked like as we first utilized the room:

We inherited two couches, some green padded chairs, two directors chairs, and a large tube television.  I eventually brought in a ping-pong table (not shown), the stage behind me, bought a projector, and moved in a healthy stack of NLV Bibles.  Good to go for the time.

We quickly outgrew the half space we had, and I had to rearrange several times to accomodate.  The paint was aged (with years of handprints plastered about), so over the summer Amanda (my wife) and I did a major overhaul.  We painted the walls blue and a deep red.  Moved over to the other side of the room and enlarged the gathering space.  A donated couch arrived, we hooked up an HD TV for media, and brought in a Gladiator Gearbox, some lights and a laptop to do some really fun stuff.  Here is the current room:

I forgot to mention that I love the icicle lights – in person they make the room very warm.  This picture was taken after High School Youth Group on Sunday Night, and I love how the room feels.  Unfortunately, more work needs to be done.  We are already over capacity for seating space for some of our programs with Middle School youth, and so this summer we will likely work on some new projects – like taking out the back walls, painting the hallways, and making a unified youth space (we also have a teaching room and a Green Room that feels more like a coffee shop).

In all the youth ministries in which I have served families, having a fun and warm space is incredibly important for those who worship and spend time in the church.  A lot has happened as we have continued to redo the rooms including a new and growing High School Youth Group known as ACDC (Awesome Christian’s Digging Christ).  Summer missions is exploding, Confirmation is passionate, events are transforming lives, and God is doing some great and amazing things.   Nice to know the space is getting used ;D  God bless you and pray for us if you have a few moments.  Peace.

UMC Youth Rock at Revolution Retreat in Columbia, SC

Friday though Saturday March 16 – 18th, thousands of young people from across South Carolina came together at the Colonial Coliseum.  To describe it in a few words: “It was BIG.”  We worshipped with the Spark band, danced to hip hop with Humble T.I.P. (To Increase Praise), rocked with DecembeRadio, and were challenged to the core by Jennifer Dake concerning our discipleship and understanding our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We were created perfect, we became imperfect, we need to be perfect, Christ was perfect, Christ died to make us perfect, and we can have faith in an amazing God of grace.  The challenge to discipleship, to put away sin and walk forward with Christ was amazing.

Here is a bit of the worship from The Spark:

We also had an opportunity in mission to pack bags full of protein, vegetables and rice to send to East Timor, where some of the most impoverished conditions on the planet exist.  We put on hair nets and weighed 8,000 packets that were ready to ship out in the weeks from the Stop Hunger Now warehouse in North Carolina.  And we also learned the game Ninja while we chilled ;D

It was truly an amazing event packed with the funniest (and most fun) Intermission Dance (see below).  We had fun in Columbia getting to know each other at the hotel, while walking and driving around Columbia, and while seeing youth from last year’s Salkehatchie trip, and went deeper in devotions each evening.  God did some amazing works in us, and we can pray that our hearts remain passionate and on fire.  God is good.   

Here is what one of the youth wrote on Facebook: 

“Wow. Revolution was so amazing, The Spark was there, Demberadio, Humble T.I.P. and mrs. Jennifer. It was so amazing to see a HUGE group of teenagers get together and just praise God. Not even thinking about what the person beside them thought of them. There were tears of pure salvation and SO MANY hearts were opened to God and to letting him consume our bodies. Im never.ever. Going to forget this weekend. Even though I was sick and had NO voice, it’d come and go, it was a blast.”

Thank you Amanda and Tina for being amazing leaders, and thank you to our youth who went and soaked in God’s goodness all weekend long.  You made the retreat fun for everyone.

With hearts open to God, all the world becomes holy

With hearts open to God, all the world becomes holy

Published Monday, March 21, 2011

Our church, when seen as a building, is beautiful. It matches the palmetto, pine and live oak forests of the area well. Great brown beams hold a beautiful light-filled glass and tan stucco structure together. Within, the pews are well maintained, the altar is highlighted by a beautifully done stained glass cross with Scripture and depictions of Christ adorning it. A few hundred people come each Sunday to experience the presence of God surrounded by a space that is holy to many. Certainly it was built with holy ground in mind, so for the worshipper who meets God there, the architect succeeds in his or her vision.

We all have moments of the sacred, and it happens to different people in different ways. God is always prodding our hearts wherever we are, so for some, the architect is God himself, as by a stream in the woods, one might see a deer and be reminded that God takes care of the world — those conscious of their existence like us, and those not like the deer. When we feel God, in that realization, whatever space it is, becomes sacred ground.

Many of us hold the burning bush of Moses to be a strong image of this kind of space. It is dramatic and is the kind of story that lasts over the generations. The bush was supernaturally on fire. God’s presence was obvious from a voice that spoke, commanding Moses to take off his sandals. It was there that Moses received God’s nod to lead, regardless of his ability to do so. God would be his strength as he led his people out of slavery. It would be hard, but God would be with him. God always had been with him, as God is with all of us. But the bush, burning on a mountaintop, woke him up from the dream that had become his life. Moses was awakened to who God had made him to be. Not just a shepherd in the desert, but a leader of men and women. Great things happened because of that sacred space.

All great relationships with God start with a realization that God is really working all around us. I remember a day when I committed to praying “unceasingly” as the Scripture calls us to. I literally remained in a state of prayer all day. It was hard and I can’t say I did it well. But that day I saw God at work all around me. I saw people moving and doing God’s will sometimes without even realizing it. My eyes were opened, and all the spaces I occupied that day in the little town of Derry, N.H., became sacred to me.

We all have a need for sacred moments. God built each of us to worship and glorify him with all of our being. We all have gifts that only reach our full potential with the spirit of God awakens them. How are you awakening? And will you accept God’s prodding when it comes?

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.

Less Stress: The Big Picture Belongs to God

Stop stressing: Leave the big picture to God

Published Monday, March 7, 2011

Sometimes seeing the big picture is hard. I once heard a story, and I will tell it how I remember it, about a newly married woman. Her husband made enough money so she felt blessed that she would be able to be at the home to keep up the house, take care of future children, cook meals and do the day-to-day business of the family.

One day her husband returned home and noticed half a bag of potatoes sitting around the kitchen sink. Hearing sobs, he followed his wife’s voice until he found her. He asked, “What is wrong? What happened?” She just continued in tears unable to speak. The husband felt terrible and figured he had done something wrong.

When she composed herself and was able to speak, the woman told her husband what had happened. As she was peeling the potatoes, she started thinking about all the years she would be married. She multiplied how many potatoes she had by an approximate amount of times she would have to peel potatoes over the years. Millions of potatoes filled her mind and she was simply overwhelmed by the enormity of her commitment.

When we look at the big picture on any project or the human condition around the world it’s easy to be overtaken by a sense of helplessness. Big is big — no way around it. We want to count our lives in minutes, and then realize as we age it’s easier to tick off decades. If we counted each minute and accounted for everything we have put our hands to, we would simply shut down. While it is nice to reminisce, spending too much time on the past can leave you stuck there.

The Prophets weren’t well-liked in the old country of Israel. I think it was simply because they told people what was going to happen, and it often wasn’t good news.

God saw the end of an age and in sorrow allowed a few people to tell their friends that faith was dying and self-dependence had replaced a prayerful dependence on the Lord. Isaiah spoke God’s word, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.” God calls them to seek justice, end the evils among them, and turn back toward their original love for God’s goodness. In foreknowledge he knows of that the destruction of their nation was on the way.

I am thankful God never leaves us to wallow in our distress. Though we have times of trouble, God speaks blessings such as this, also from Isaiah’s book: “Zion will be redeemed with justice and a promise is given that in the last days,” the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

After all the potatoes have been peeled, even after we have spent eons tending to our world, God promises to shore up our efforts with His strength. So we do all the good that we can, but also are assured that the greatest good is still coming. We remember that God walked among us 2,000 years ago, and His spirit is with us today.

This promise is for everyone who has been worried about the big picture. Anyone who has lost sleep because they see the world ending in a great fire with all lost to chaos.

God is saying to all of us: “Leave the big picture to me. I am your strength.”

Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.